Albert Memorial

Construction of the memorial

National Memorial to the Prince Consort under construction 1864

Photographers: Cundall & Fleming
Architect: Sir George Gilbert Scott
Copyright: V&A Images. Museum number: 45.775

Work on the foundations of Scott's memorial to the Prince Consort began on 6 May 1864. This early photograph shows the scaffolding over the main site and the crane and pulley system ready in place. It also reveals the extensive network of tunnels built underneath the monument and its surrounding steps.

The contract for the execution of the memorial went to the builder John Kelk. Work initially progressed at a reasonable pace, with the plinth completed in December 1865, the canopy in May 1867, and the cross at the very top of the monument was erected in June 1868.

The memorial was inspected by Queen Victoria and opened to the public in July 1872. However, it was then still incomplete as the statue of the prince by John Henry Foley was only placed in position in 1876.

A greenhouse for the memorial

An interesting idea was put forward just one year after completion by the architect Alfred Bedborough. In 1877 he published a scheme in which he proposed to enclose the memorial within a huge Gothic glasshouse. Henry Cole had previously expressed an interest in such a scheme, fearing for the safety and longevity of the monument.

Bedborough’s elaborate and potentially expensive glasshouse never materialised, perhaps due to the irony that although conceived in praise of Scott’s design, it would have effectively hidden it at the same time!